Avid environmentalist or not, you need the earth to live.
Sunday was Earth Day around the globe, a day for everyone to take a step back to think about, appreciate and help raise awareness about the sanctity of the earth.
Over the years, the human race has become more aware of how fragile our living environment is and the importance of taking care of it. Saving energy and reducing waste are two of the main ways we have gone about trying to conserve our environment. One of the best efforts we give in doing so is recycling.
History has shown that people have been aware of the importance of recycling for thousands of years, tracing original recycling practices back to Plato in 400 B.C. In times of war, recycling and donating metals as well as conserving fiber were ways we started to take recycling more seriously in the common world.
As we have become more aware of the issue and started to invest more in recycling, the results have led to more efficient means of recycling as well as government mandated rulings regarding waste material.
The biggest discovery pertained to aluminum. Recycled aluminum uses only five percent of the energy required to produce it than it does with virgin material. This is by far the largest energy-saving clip among other material such as paper and glass (five-40 percent energy savings).
The government has stepped in, mandating that certain manufacturers include recycling in their operations and that a certain percentage of a new product consist of recycled material.
Another way the government is trying to help the cause is by increasing bans on illegal dumping of materials such as used oil, batteries, tires and garden waste. This program needs more work however, as “illegal dumping” has actually increased. The government is working on programs to better serve consumers in the disposal of these materials. The Environmental Protection Agency has made huge strides in this field, including ordering certain companies to purchase recycled or refined materials whenever possible. The EPA is also responsible for the labeling of products with any recycled material used in the product and whether or not the material is recyclable.
Now that you know some of the history behind recycling, here are some relevant and eye-popping statistics that are helping people become more aware and encouraged to recycle.
44 million newspapers are thrown away every day in the United States. This is like throwing 500,000 trees into a landfill each week. If each person were to reuse a paper shopping bag for just one trip to the store, we would save 60,000 trees. How many trees would be saved if we all used reusable cloth grocery bags instead? Recycling a single aluminum can saves enough energy to power your television for three hours or run a 100-watt light bulb for almost four hours. Plastic bags made from recycled polythene rather than virgin materials save two-thirds of the energy required for production and reduce the water used by almost 90 percent. Glass is 100 percent recyclable and can go from the recycling bin to a store shelf in as little as 30 days. Making a glass container from a recycled container creates about 20 percent less air pollution and 50 percent less water pollution and uses only about half the energy of making it from virgin materials. Recycling a single glass bottle can save enough energy to light a 100-watt light bulb for four hours.
These are just a few examples of recyclable materials and how much we can save just by the simple practice of recycling.
However, there is a lot more involved in the recycling process than just saving energy. We are also reducing air pollution. In Great Britain, recycling efforts have led to a 10-15 million ton reduction per year in CO2 emissions, according to the Waste and Resources Action Programme.
Recycling can reduce the price of materials as well, due to the cheaper means of producing recycled materials as well as the saving of time, money and effort to produce a recycled product rather than a product from raw material.
So next time you leave the lights on in a room or chug a can of soda, just remember to reduce, reuse and recycle. While you may not see the direct effects it has on your life, the facts are there. Think about the generations to come who want to live on this planet years after we are done using it.
By Owen Shroyer, Sports editor for The Current